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Remaining GM Workers on Edge as Layoffs End: We’re ‘Nervous and Afraid’

Venus Walker, of Warren, Ohio and a GM employee with 12 years at the Lordstown plant, prays during a vigil outside the Lordstown GM plant, on Nov. 29, 2018.
William D. Lewis/The Vindicator via AP
JOHN BINDER

The remaining American workers at General Motors (GM) say they are on edge as layoffs of thousands of longtime U.S. employees have somewhat concluded at a number of the automakers’ plants.

At the beginning of the month, GM executives began laying off 14,700 workers in the United States and Canada, with the majority of the layoffs concentrated in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, and Texas, including at least 3,300 American factory workers.

These layoffs included the mass layoff of at least 4,000 American workers in white-collar jobs for GM, many of whom were older and had worked at the multinational corporation for more than two decades.

This year, GM is stopping production at four American plants, including Detroit-Hamtramck and Warren Transmission in Michigan, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, and Baltimore Operations in Maryland. This comes after GM laid off about 1,500 American workers in Lordstown in 2018, while their Mexico production remains unaffected and production in China ramps up.

Now, the American workers who remain at GM write online through message boards that they are on edge and that the corporation has a “culture of fear” where workers’ jobs are seemingly on the chopping block at a moment’s notice.

“Those of us that remain, are nervous and afraid. Rightly so I think. Many feel like an airline crash survivor,” one American worker wrote. “Some have used words like survivor guilt.” The worker continued

Meetings I have been in are filled with tension and an almost manic focus on assignments. We talk of the fired teammates as though they died. GM has created a culture of fear and loathing. The giant awakens and crushes indiscriminately. I feel most sorry for those who profess to love the industry and GM specifically. Only a fool has loyalty to any corporation. Cherish your family and get ready. Round two in less than a year.

Another American worker declared GM a “hire and fire company” that has no loyalty to its employees under the direction of CEO Mary Barra, who has continued raking in an annual salary of $22 million despite the layoffs.

The U.S. worker wrote:

The problem with laying off people when times are good is that it not only does it generate fear and mistrust between management and the workers but also between workers themselves. I had the unfortunate experience to work at a couple of smaller design firms that used the same approach that GM has adopted. That is, the hire and fire approach. Generally, lesser companies use this approach and once word gets around then they have a problem attracting good engineers. I know Barra is a currently a media darling but I think having mass salary layoffs when you are giving your hourly employees 10K+ bonuses will come around to haunt her. [Emphasis added]

While this leadership is at the wheel there will be no job security. [Emphasis added]

I’m honestly a little surprised that people ask when this is going to be over. I hate to break it to them but layoffs and reorganizations are the main focus of this GM leadership and as long as they are on the top there will never be job security. Maybe we will not have layoffs on the scale that we had them recently but there will be always smaller and bigger waves. Their main focus is to restructure and to cut cost and that will not change. Hope that they meet their end at the company before the damage is irreparable. [Emphasis added]

An American GM worker who posted to the online message board said he is now concerned for his job at the company after executives noticed him merely looking for another job, fearing he could be soon laid off.

“I have been contemplating leaving GM, and last week my manager saw me looking up information about job openings,” the GM worker wrote. “She brought it up to me which I denied doing so. Any chance this could cost me my current position if she knows I’m leaving?”

Solidarity and unity among American workers at GM, fueled by distrust, is partially responsible for the layoffs, one American worker wrote:

This is something that many of us don’t want to hear but the fact is they can do layoffs in this way because there is no unity among the workers and we show little or no resistance to whatever they do. They can lay us off, discriminate us based on our age, hell they can do whatever they want. [Emphasis added]

The fact is that most of us don’t really care what happens to our coworkers, or care very little. Sure, we all feel bad for a colleague in our group that’s been laid off, or folks at our location, but let’s face it, most of that comes from our own fear of suffering the same faith. From the moment we know we are safe that empathy seems to become weaker and weaker. The sad thing is that that’s the exact reason why they feel they can do this to us. [Emphasis added]

Some remaining American GM workers speculated about more layoffs to come in August, with one writing that there is a rumor inside the company that about 2,000 Americans will be laid off from GM later this year.

“I hope we don’t go through this emotional wrecking experience again,” the worker wrote.

Others fumed at the corporate structure where loyalty to wealthy investors comes first and American workers’ priorities are put last.

“I think the punchline is understanding who the top executives actually work for — investors,” an American worker wrote. “Including investors who would like to do things like sell off US manufacturing, change the name and focus only on things like OnStar and Autonomous vehicle back office.”

Moving forward, remaining American GM workers wrote that they are now expected to do the same level of work with fewer and fewer employees, a reoccurring complaint on message boards.

“Now that the layoffs are over, it becomes clear that GM expects us to do the same amount of work we did before only with fewer people left to do it,” an American worker wrote. “We are expected to take over the work that was being done by other people for no extra compensation … Do they really think this will work long term?”

While GM lays off thousands of American workers, its production in Mexico and China is ramping up. Specifically, GM is looking to manufacture an electric Cadillac in China and continue manufacturing its Envision compact vehicle in China.

The made-in-Mexico Chevrolet Blazer will soon arrive in U.S. markets. Last year, GM became the largest automaker in Mexico last year, as it has cut jobs in America and increased production to Mexico.

Offshoring production to Mexico has proven cheaper for GM executives, as American workers earn $30 an hour while Mexican workers earn about $3 an hour, a 90 percent cut to wages that widens the corporation’s profit margins.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is now urging American consumers to boycott GM vehicles that are manufactured in Mexico, noting that such products’ Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) begin with the number “3.”

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder

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